PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – More than 200 golfers from 18 Special Olympics North America programs will compete in the 13th annual Special Olympics North America Golf Invitational Tournament at the Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park, Ariz., Sept. 6-9, 2012.
Special Olympics golf, part of a worldwide sports program for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, offers five levels of play for athletes with different golf abilities. Olympic-style Opening Ceremonies will tee off the event on Thursday, Sept. 6, with three competitive golf rounds played Friday, Sept. 7, through Sunday, Sept. 9. Awards ceremonies for the golf competition will take place immediately following the final round on Sunday, Sept. 9.
KPMG, The PGA of America, USGA and PGA Tour are presenting sponsors of the 2012 tournament. PGA Professional Greg Leicht will share the tournament director role with Special Olympics Senior Sports Development Manager Craig Pippert.
Leicht received the 2011 Conrad Rehling Award for his contributions to the growth of Special Olympics Golf and is the general manager and director of golf at Vistal Golf Club in Phoenix, Ariz. A PGA member since 1998 and currently serving as Secretary of the Southwest PGA Section, Leicht began training and coaching Special Olympics golfers in 2003. He has served as the tournament director of the Arizona Special Olympics State Golf Championship for the past nine years and is head of the Arizona delegation to the Special Olympics Golf Invitational Tournament.
"From the first practice I attended back in 2003, I have been hooked on Special Olympics," said Leicht. "The athletes demonstrate true sportsmanship and positive attitudes toward the game. They are not in competition with each other, only with themselves. The athletes see the good in everyone else. They look at competition through a different set of glasses."
"We are pleased to continue our support of Special Olympics and the 13th annual Special Olympics Golf Invitational Tournament," said PGA of America President Allen Wronowski. "We are especially proud of Greg Leicht and his leadership in the Southwest Section and nationally for the growth of Special Olympics golf. He represents the very best of PGA members volunteering at a grassroots level for Special Olympics across the United States and we look forward to his involvement with their tournament.
Special Olympics Golf allows athletes to grow in the game as they gain experience. Level I competition consists of an individual skills contest, where six golf skills are tested. Level II is an alternate shot team play, where a Special Olympics athlete is paired with a non-Special Olympics partner of more advanced skill for a 9-hole competition. Level III is Unified Sports® team play, pairing Special Olympics and Unified partners of similar ability for an 18-hole competition. Levels IV and V are individual stroke play 9-hole and 18-hole competitions, respectively.
More than 19,000 Special Olympics athletes participate in golf training and competition within 49 U.S. Special Olympics programs. Worldwide, more than 50 countries offer Special Olympics golf programs.
The Special Olympics golf program began in 1988 with the assistance of The PGA of America and USGA. Since then both associations contribute to the growth of the program with grassroots training, rules education, tournament administration and national program financial support. The PGA Tour also provides ongoing financial support to the program. PGA Tour player Padraig Harrington and LPGA Tour player I.K. Kim are global sports ambassadors for Special Olympics, helping to implement golf programs and initiatives designed to spread respect for people with intellectual disabilities.
About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives through the power of sport by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to more than 3.7 million athletes in over 170 countries in all regions of the world, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programs. Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at specialolympics.org . Engage with us on: Twitter@specialolympics ; fb.com/specialolympics ; and youtube.com/specialolympicshq .